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Press Ahead With Common Core, Say Superintendents

Despite mounting opposition, America’s school superintendents want to proceed with Common Core multistate education standards, a new survey indicates.

The survey of nearly 2,000 superintendents around the country was commissioned by the publication Education Week and was conducted by Gallup. While the survey was general and touched upon many topics, it asked several questions specifically about how the superintendents regarded Common Core, the set of education standards adopted by over forty states.

Asked whether Common Core was too difficult, too simple, or about right in terms of rigor for their students, the vast majority of superintendents, 73 percent, said the standards were appropriately rigorous. Eight percent thought they were too challenging, while only 5 percent thought they were too easy. 15 percent were unsure, a figure that likely includes many superintendents from states that Common Core was never adopted in, such as Texas and Virginia.

That figure makes superintendents much more supportive of the standards than Americans at large. Polling in late August found that only 53 percent of Americans back the standards, with opposition rising among Americans who said they were very familiar with the standards.

Another controversial aspect of Common Core the superintendents were asked about is the existence of consortia which states have joined in order to create standardized tests that can directly compare educational outcomes in several states.

Two major such consortia exist, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC).

The consortia, which are state-run but have received funding from the federal government, have aroused fierce opposition, with critics concerned about the tests’ unproven nature, reliance on computer technology, and the loss of autonomy for states.

In Louisiana, the state’s participation in PARCC is the lynchpin for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s high-profile lawsuits against both the federal government and his own state school board seeking to have Common Core eliminated.

Such withdrawals are not warranted, most superintendents said. 64 percent said states should stay the course with testing consortia, while only 20 percent thought states should abandon them. 16 percent were unsure.

The superintendents’ general approval of Common Core existed despite a simultaneous concern for their own local autonomy, which Common Core is often accused of undermining. 52 percent of superintendents thought that their state boards of education didn’t give enough autonomy to local districts.

The survey was conducted form August 4-18 and consisted of 1,663 school superintendents around the United States.

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